Raja Ampat is a very unique part of the world for many reasons, its geographical location being the biggest influence on its history and culture. Because of the remoteness of the region and the distance between islands, there are many tribes that make up the people of the archipelago. This has also led to many dialects of the main language Biak developing between islands. In fact, there are no less than 10 dialects spoken in Raja Ampat so if you want to communicate it is best to learn a little Bahasa Indonesia.
English is not widely spoken in Raja Ampat, except within resorts like Papua Paradise Eco Resort. Outside the resort you will find that people may know a little English but for ease of communication it’s a good idea to speak a little Bahasa Indonesia.
Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of The Republic of Indonesia and pretty much everyone in Raja Ampat speaks it as well as their own tribal dialect. It is quite a simple language to grasp, especially just a few greetings or words for shopping.
Try starting with greetings like:
Selamat Pagi: Good morning
Selamat Siang: Good afternoon (from around 11am-4pm)
Selamat sore: Good evening (from around 4pm-sunset)
Selamat malam: Good night
You can then ask how someone is or answer when they ask you:
Apa kabar?: How are you?
Baik Baik (pronounced like bike): I’m well
While shopping you will need a few small phrases like:
Berapa harganya?: How much is this?
Boleh ditawar?: May I bargain?
Boleh kurang?: Can you drop the price?
Harga Pas: Fixed price
Terima Kasih: Thank You
Sama sama: You’re welcome
And when it comes to numbers it’s really easy:
It can take a little bit of time to get used to the currency with all the thousands and millions but it’s actually quite simple:
Puluh: add this on to any number to make a multiple of 10 e.g dua puluh: twenty
Ratus: add this on to any number to make a multiple of 100 e.g tiga ratus: three hundred
Ribu: add this on to any number to make a multiple of 1000 e.g lima ribu: five thousand
Juta: add this on to any number to make a multiple of 1000000 e.g Enam juta: six million
As we pointed out before, there are a number of dialects of the main language Biak spoken in Raja Ampat. There are around 70,000 speakers of this Eastern Malayo-Polynesian language, making it a very region-specific language.
When you are in Raja Ampat ask staff members or guides at Papua Paradise Eco Resort to teach you a few words. They love for visitors to take a genuine interest in their language and culture. It also shows a respect and curiosity that goes beyond just seeing their beautiful island home.
Do you enjoy learning languages when you travel? Tell us in the comments below how you think it helps or hinders you when you are on a trip.